On stage, backstage, or restoring vintage radios, he's the consummate professional
Daniel Squire's wide skills set fills plenty of needed slots with Radio Redux
Daniel Squire had been waiting for a long time to have a role with Fred Crafts’ Radio Redux ensemble, which has been reenacting classic radio plays onstage for 10 years. In the troupe’s production of Sorry, Wrong Number, Squire finally got his chance.
“I’ve been wanting to do this maybe since 2011, when Radio Redux was still performing at the Wildish Community Theater,” the actor explained over a latte at the Black Rock Coffee Bar on River Road in Eugene.
Squire recalled seeing an episode of Lights Out the first time he attended Radio Redux, in April 2012.
“I had heard about Radio Redux and I had always been interested in radio theater,” he said. “When I was a kid and we had Payless drug stores — which now is Rite-Aid — they used to have cassettes of classic radio shows for sale at the checkout stands.”
Daniel Squire rehearses during the first read-through of the Radio Redux play Sorry, Wrong Number, his first role with Radio Redux. Squire had worked behind the scenes for several years before being cast as an actor. Photo by Fred Crafts.
He amassed a collection back then, and he also checked out phonograph records of CBS Radio Mystery Theater from his junior high school library in Springfield.
His personal collection included a copy of Sorry, Wrong Number — which makes his Radio Redux debut in that particular piece even more fitting.
Once he had seen Radio Redux in action, Squire offered to volunteer with the group, first ushering and working in concessions at the Wildish and, later, after Radio Redux relocated to the Soreng Theater in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, as part of the load-in and load-out crew.
He did have a three-year gap in his participation, when he moved to Roseburg for a job, “but when I came back to Eugene in 2016 I started volunteering again.”
At that time, he said, “I told Fred (Crafts) that I would like to be in the productions — he took his time thinking about it, but I’m a patient person,” Squire said with a grin. “We talked off and on, and then he saw me perform last winter in Blithe Spirit at The Very Little Theater, and I guess he liked what I did.”
Daniel Squire performs in Blithe Spirit at The Very Little Theater. Photo by Fred Crafts
That was indeed the case, Crafts said.
"I realized when Daniel first started volunteering with our concessions, and later with the load-in crew, that he had an exceptional work ethic. He was eager and reliable and fun to be around, but it wasn't until I saw him in Blithe Spirit that it dawned on me that he would make a fabulous Radio Redux cast member, too. It's been all plus-plus with him. He can adapt his voice to the roles and just fits right in to what we do."
Squire’s acting “career” really began when he served in the U.S. Navy in Japan for three years in his early 20s, serving on an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway, where the crew might be at sea for up to six months.
“We had a theater with a stage so I started helping with that, and then I got a part when we did One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — as one of the inmates — and I really enjoyed that a lot,” he said.
After the service, his job cut into his time available for acting. Squire worked for Far West Steel for 12 years, “and those were years in my 20s and 30s where I probably could have had more leading roles but I sort of missed that window because of work.”
In the mid-1990s, though, with a more flexible schedule, he noticed an advertisement for auditions with The Very Little Theater and he decided to give it a try.
“They were doing The Hound of the Baskervilles, and I got a part as a sort of bad guy,” Squire recalled. “For that play, VLT changed up the roles a bit — in the original, the husband was really the bad guy, but in VLT show, they made him kind of bad but his wife was the real villain. I think maybe they were trying to do more equality in the parts.”
Squire dates his introduction to many of Eugene’s seasoned actors to that show, including Dan Pegoda, who played the part of Sherlock Holmes and now is a regular in Radio Redux productions.
For his part, Squire went on to play in several more VLT shows. His appearances have included Dial M for Murder, It Runs in the Family, The Heiress, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, and Frost/Nixon.
Even during his years in Roseburg, Squire did theater whenever he could, primarily at the Umpqua Actors Community Theatre, or UACT.
“I was in three plays, and I actually got to direct a one-act play there,” he said. “A former newspaper theater critic in Roseburg had written three one-act plays that the theater decided to do. It was in the summer, and we were doing Deathtrap, and one of the actors was sitting backstage reading scripts. I asked him what he was doing, and he told me and asked me if I wanted to direct one. I said, ‘Sure.’ It was a great experience, just a two-person cast, and it was very collaborative and fun to do.”
Squire helps with loading in sound effects and other equipment before a Radio Redux show at the Soreng Theater. Photo by Fred Crafts.
His parts in his Radio Redux debut are small but Squire hopes they will lead to more roles in the future.
“I have one part in each show,” he said. “In Sorry, Wrong Number, I am the Western Union guy. In Back Seat Driver, I am the motorcycle cop who pulls over the couple in the car — I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to give anything away.”
Squire’s interest in old radio plays goes beyond the classic broadcasts to the design and performance of vintage radios themselves, which he acquires and refurbishes as a hobby.
“I found a 1940 Philco radio on Craigslist about 12 years ago,” he recalled. “It was only $35, so I decided to try and fix it up. I read a lot of online articles and asked a lot of questions on message boards, and I managed to get it working.”
He still has that radio, “and it works great,” Squire said. Now, he manages to fix up a half-dozen or so old radios a year, often giving them to friends or family.
Crafts was a beneficiary of Squire’s radio restoration largesse.
"At a gathering at my house, Daniel noticed an old radio I had that was pretty beat-up,” Crafts said. “He offered to restore to its original glory. I figured why not, it was so ragged that he sure couldn't hurt anything — I hadn’t seen any of his work up to that time so had no idea how talented he was. So imagine my astonishment when, a couple months later, he presents it to me and it looks 100 percent brand new, but in an old-timey way. It is absolutely gorgeous. He researched its original look then rummaged around the internet and stores in town 'til he found parts. He is incredibly skilled in so many ways. We are so fortunate he was interested in Radio Redux and reached out to work with us."
Squire wonders how much longer it will be possible to refurbish the old radios.
“There is a solid antique radio community (now) providing vintage and reproduction parts, so there aren’t many obstacles preventing me from restoring them,” he said.
“However, a lot of the hobbyists have gotten older, and some of them have passed on, so it’s probably only a matter of time before it all becomes much harder to do.”
Squire restored this vintage radio after seeing it in Fred Crafts' home at a cast party. "He researched its original look then rummaged around the internet and stores in town 'til he found parts," Crafts said. "He is incredibly skilled in so many ways."
Nonetheless, there’s nothing like the “very nice, warm, rich sound” that makes things like old radio shows and pre-stereo even more appealing when heard on the older equipment, Squire said.
Actually being in a reenactment of a radio show, where the actors stand at microphones, read the scripts and portray their characters through their voices rather than their actions on a stage set, will be a thrill of a different kind, Squire said, and one that he relishes.
“Acting is such a great experience, I just enjoy it,” he said. “By opening night, I feel confident that I am ready and it’s finally time to do the show for an audience.”
As for the end of a run, his feelings are usually mixed.
“On the last show,” he said, “I usually feel ready to be done, but I’m sorry to see it go.”
— Randi Bjornstad, who retired from The Register-Guard as a features writer, now writes for Eugene Scene.
Squire (right) and production manager Betsy Williams test the sound effects for the elaborate closet-opening scene in the Radio Redux's performance of The Fibber McGee and Molly Show. Photo by Fred Crafts.